Small Budget? Make People the Focus at Your Next Tradeshow

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By Jenny Kosek for our 15 Ways to Build Your B2B Brand in 2015 blog series

You know those booths at trade shows that generate buzz? The booth everyone says you HAVE to see?

Usually that booth is also a bank-breaker for the company hosting it, with the hope that the big spend on the flashy booth will pull in enough sales and opportunities to justify the expense. Of course, with enough cash, anything is possible, so for larger companies to put out an interactive, multi-story booth with full sound, lighting, and a waterslide (anything’s possible!), it’s easy. For smaller players, such luxury is out of reach.

But luxury is not the same as impact, and without pouring your entire marketing budget into a tradeshow booth, you can still make a splash if you think creatively.  Ultimately, your tradeshow strategy needs to cover two main goals:

  1. Get people to your booth
  2. Make sure they remember you

Achieving these goals requires planning and commitment, but not necessarily large spends. Here are some ways to maximize your tradeshow experience, whatever your budget:

  1. Set a tone. When planning your booth design, materials, and messaging, decide who you want to be at this particular show. You’ll want to stay consistent with the look and feel of your other promotional efforts, but you should customize your approach for each show. Some shows are more lighthearted and fun than others, so don’t be afraid to let your hair down and be more casual if the event is appropriate.
  2. Do demos. Whenever possible, show what your product does…and if you can do it with a twist, go for it. Is one of your product’s selling features that it’s waterproof? Get a tank and dunk it. In short, show, don’t tell, why your product is the one prospects should buy.
  3. Games and giveaways build engagement. Arrange a raffle for a juicy prize – not just a branded-merchandise swag bag – or run a game several times throughout the day to get people interacting with your booth in a non-sales way. Industry trivia or branded bingo is always fun!
  4. Send the right people. Part of being memorable at a tradeshow is ensuring that event visitors enjoy interacting with your people. It’s not enough to send good salespeople; you essentially need to think like Disney and send “cast members.” Who can not only sell your product, but your brand? Who can be energetic, social, and committed to networking for days at a time? Your people can make the difference between the booth everyone loves and the booth everyone passes by.
  5. Make an experience, not a booth. The big booths will draw visitors once everyone’s in the event hall, but well-executed communications strategies can create a memorable experience before, during, and after the event. Send postcards, emails, and use your social media to attract visitors to your booth prior to the show. Connect with them at the event, using their own social media as an avenue to build a relationship. Follow up after the show, and again a few weeks or months later, to stay in touch. Once the big guys take down the waterslides, the smaller vendors have the opportunity to really reel in ROI with personalized and thoughtful communication.

Don’t let your budget hold you back from making big impression at your next tradeshow. Energy, enthusiasm, engagement, and connections (as always) are the true key to your success.